Heba Saadieh makes history as the first Palestinian referee at a World Cup

the palestine and of Syrian nationality. Heba Saadiehwith his dream for flag, the football it has become their language. “I didn’t know a word of Swedish when I moved to Stockholm, but nevertheless I understood everything and I connected through football”, Saadieh explained to the portal Now, stubbornness and perseverance have led him to make history in Oceania. Heba Saadieh is the first Palestinian, what is part of an arbitral body in a World Cup. She was an assistant referee at a China-England match.

“I am very proud to be the first Palestinian referee at the Women’s World Cup.” It is celebrated from July 20 to August 20 between Australia and New Zealand. “This makes me feel the responsibility to show a very good exercise during the tournament, and I hope I can open this door so that others, for female Palestinian referees, and also men, will be selected in the future”, explains the 34-year-old girl. To achieve her dream and become a reference on the way, Saadieh has gone through almost all continents with the ultimate goal of perfecting your technique. His is a story of exiles and resistance.

Syrian refugee

Born in Damascusthe young woman ofPalestinian ancestry grew up in Syria. Passionate about sports since childhood, she decided to study physical education at the university in her city. But, in 2020 he asked a question that changed his life. “I saw a group of referees training and noticed that there were no women among them”, he explained in a February 2022 interview on the Sports and Youth channel of Palestine TV. “When I asked them about it, they suggested I join, so I did it”, he confessed. But, barely a year later, the Syrian revolution broke out and was followed by a civil war that still tears the country apart. Between bombings and repression, there was almost no place for sport.

Heba Saadieh, as assistant referee. REUTERS

In 2012, and already with one extensive training as a player and referee to Syria, Saadieh will terrify malaysia, where he joined his Football Association’s referee program. There, he had a hard time finding a place to train. “He trained everywhere: on the street, in parking lots,” explains Saadieh. “I had injuries and had to treat and take care of myself”, she remembers, although she felt very alone. “Malaysia is a very big country and I think that they only had two or three referees”, regrets Also, not everyone liked to see a woman refereeing men’s football matches.

Saadieh then moved to stockholm with his family as part of one settlement program of the United Nations. “In the beginning, it wasn’t easy, because I come from a different culture and place, so I had to work even harder to show them that I deserved to be there and that I deserved to be given matches” to referee, he defends in the Al Jazeera interview. Shortly after arriving there, he got the FIFA referee license in 2016. He now referees in the top category of the Swedish women’s league and in the second level of the men’s league.

journey home

Commitment to arbitration has led to a privileged place in history. At the 2022 Men’s Under-21 World Cup held in France, she became one of the first women Arabs to act as arbitrator. Although the 2023 Women’s World Cup is the biggest yet, Arab representation at the tournament remains sparse, with Morocco the only team from the Middle East and North Africa region. The ‘Leonas del Atlas’ are the first Arab women’s team to have managed to enter the highest level competition. The Arab world looks to them, as it did to its male counterparts in the fall, with all its hopes pinned on them.

Heba Saadieh, on the right, with the rest of the refereeing team. REUTERS

Eyes are also on Saadieh. For her, refereeing the World Cup is a “pride”, but it is not the final goal. “I had to work and work more and more”, he defends. With daily double training, she dreams and acts to become one of the best referees in the world. Right now, the best gift was given to him Palestinian Federation last year with an invitation to visit them. “It was the first time in my life that I visited my country; it was great to visit the place where i belong, there are no words to describe it“, he notes. The power of the whistle brought her back home.

2023-08-03 12:43:15
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